Dated: July 14, 2020
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India issued notice to Airtel and Vodafone Idea to stop their post-paid premium plans for offer to the customers. This comes after Reliance Jio had written a letter to the TRAI citing that these post-paid plans violate the principles of net neutrality and tariff as mentioned in the Act. Four days after this letter was sent, the regulator issued a notice to Vodafone Idea asking it to reply to the points raised by Reliance Jio.
The TRAI has issued notice to both the companies on Saturday and has asked them to stop this premium services. The Vodafone Red X plan and Airtel Platinum premium plan are the one in question here. The price of the both start from rupees 499 and above. The premium customers received a 50% higher data speed than the normal customers, moreover other premium services were also made available to the premium post-paid customers. The TRAI has said that it was taken cognizance of the complaint and has informed all the companies that all the customers should be treated equally. Vodafone had notified TRAI two times after it launched this plan 8 month ago, but no notice regarding the same had been issued till date. Moreover, it is very clear that this issue was raised when it was flagged by Reliance Jio.
Meanwhile both Idea-Vodafone and Airtel have expressed their stance stating that there is no rule or law which prohibits them from providing premium service. TRAI has provided both the companies with time off 7 days to file a reply in regard to the same. After the expiry of 7 days TRAI will look into the matter and then decide whether this post-paid plan violates the law or not. Tell the time both the companies have been asked not to sell this plans to any customer. TRAI said that there should be no discrimination among the internet speed and all the customers of a Telecom operator should receive the same internet speed. It further clarified that high speed internet for premium customers and regular speed for normal customers is not valid in the eyes of law. Every customer is equal and as precious as the other hence all of them should be given the same treatment.
The contention that Net Neutrality was violated is also very dicey in nature as net neutrality is paid high-speed access to specific website while, here the high-speed data offered is not discriminatory on the basis of website but is offered to all the websites.
UPDATE (18/07/2020) : The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) on Friday granted Vodafone Idea Ltd an interim relief in the premium plan case, allowing the telecom company to onboard new customers. This has also provided a relief to Airtel as it also received a letter from TRAI to stop offering the premium plans. Vodafone had contended that RJio cannot be made a party as it was a third party to the dispute. The TDSAT denied Vodafone Idea contention and asked TRAI as well as RJio to file a reply withing 14 days.
Read the order dated 16/07/2020 here.